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tv   Nightline  ABC  December 27, 2010 11:35pm-12:05am EST

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tonight on "nightline" -- whiteout. tens of thousands are stranded thanks to a hurricane force holiday blizzard that snarled roads and shuttered airports. from thundersnow to eight-foot floods. winter at its worst. the tastemaker -- meet one of the top secret undercover food inspectors behind the planet's most influential restaurant guide. their taste buds make or break career. an exclusive inside look at the legendary michelin guy. and the bottom line -- covering tiny behinds is a $7 billion market. tonight, we visit the closely guarded lab.
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yes, diaper lab, where technicians work t create the perfect nappy. good evening, all. i'm bill weir. if you are snuggled by the hearth with no travel plans beyond the fridge, it was absolutely beautiful. for so many americans at the mercy of airlines or highways or snowplows, it was a freezing nightmare. the storm appeared in the gulf late last week, chugged northward, with states of emergency in north carolina, virginia va and maryland. by the time it hit boston and new york it was a heavyweight. here's jeremy hubbard with some of the folks still reeling from its punch. >> reporter: all across the east coast, people were digging out from a hurricane strength blizzard that brought snow, wind, water, even thunder and
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lightning. reeki wreaking havoc on the nation. from the carolinas to maine, the storm dumped as much as 30 inches of snow in some places and crippled the country in the midst of the holiday travel season. >> as it rolled off the coast, it kept intensifying. this morning at 9:00, the central pressure dropped to 964 milobars. the lower the pressure, the stronger the storm. that's the equivalent of a category 3 hurricane. >> reporter: you could see that winter hurricane in videos online like this one in bellmar, new jersey, a time lapse from the first flake and the following 32 inches. farther north, boston was one of the hardest areas hit, pummeled with snow, high seas and wind gusts up to 80 miles an hour nearby, leaving tens of thousands without power. 12 hours earlier, in the town of scituate, massachusetts, the ocean spilled into the town.
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eight feet of water accumulated. causing an electrical fire that spread from one home to another home. firefighters were forced to fight the blaze and try to rescue people in chest deep water. >> i haven't seen anything like this in a long time. blizzard on top of the water. i mean, we're used to all this, being in new england and living by the ocean but, i mean, this was pretty intense. >> reporter: at logan airport, we were given rare access to the tarmac where crews were frantically trying to keep the runways clear. if you had to guess a number of tons of snow that's been moved out there over the last few hours, any idea? >> hundreds. snow melt is melting snow and they smelt snow at approximately 120 ton per hour. >> reporter: believe it or not, i'm standing in the middle of runway 33 left at logan. they managed to keep it open through the storm with the help of plows. with these winds and the whiteout condition, only a couple of planes have actually landed here. and an army of snowplows have been pushing the snow for nearly
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24 hours now. you're not just sort of cleaning up your own mess, you're taking messes from other airports too, right? >> that's a good possibility. international arrivals that are in the air at this time and if jfk's not ready, will probably choose boston to divert into. >> reporter: the blizzard could not have come at a worst time for holiday travelers. airlines canceled thousands of flights leaving passengers stranded. new york's three main airports were closed last night and remained closed for most of the day. >> hopefully we'll make it the day after tomorrow in india. my wedding's in about a week and a half. >> reporter: highways were almost impassablimpassable. >> i was so scared last night. i never been scared with a snowstorm until last night. >> reporter: in new jersey, some motorists were stuck on i-280 for over 12 hours. >> we could see the whole open highway in front of us and we can't understand why they can't get a plow. >> reporter: trains were a no go too. amtrak and commuter rails, both canceled service along the east
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coast. >> everybody go to the back. >> reporter: even the new york subways affected. close to 500 people trapped on a disabled plane overnight with little food or water. >> we're not going nowhere. not one damn train. with no heat. >> a few trains have been stuck for five hours. >> it was remarkable. very few things bring new york city to a stop like a snowstorm. >> reporter: despite the crippling effects of the snow, new york city mayor bloomberg said the city was prepared. >> the city is able to deal with things like this. it's a snowstorm and it really is inconvenient for a lot of people. >> reporter: this storm system is the same one that ravaged the west coast last week, washing out roads and flooding houses. >> all the mudslides, the big rains in california. that was one part of the storm. then it just really blew up. >> reporter: philadelphia wasn't as hard hit as other major cities but it was enough for the nfl to cancel yesterday's eagles/vikings game. pennsylvania governor ed rendell expressed his dismay today on fox news.
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>> football is a cold weather sport. it should be played unless there are blizzard conditions. this is no no way shape or form a blizzard. >> reporter: today fans helped work crews dig the stadium out from what the storm left behind. the game will be played tomorrow. >> it's a whiteout again. >> reporter: as cleanup crews work around the clock to dig out, the effect of this storm will be felt for days to come. jeremy hubbard, boston. >> thanks to jeremy for that chilly report. when we come back, inside the highly secretive world of high end restaurant reviews. a michelin guide inspector shares some of the tricks of the trade. ♪ ♪ ♪ [ male announcer ] here's hoping you find something special in your driveway this holiday. ♪
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when it comes to finding a truly special restaurant, americans long depended on the reviews of trusted critics or word of mouth guys like zigats. the granddaddy of food criticism hit our shores from france and touched off a culinary arms race. the michelin guy can turn an unknown chef into a superstar or a superstar into an angry ball of shame. to avoid preferential treatment, the small band protects their anonymity so fiercely none has ever been interviewed on television -- until now. in some glorious smelling kitchen -- >> mm. >> in some buzz worthy restaurant, in some bustling city tonight, a chef wonders, is
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it the guy having tar-tar at table five? or the woman with the cod in the corner? which of my diners has the power to change my life, he thinks. who is the michelin inspector? well, if the last 100 years and this interview are any indication, that chef will never know. what should i call you? >> m. will work. >> m.? this is fantastic. it's like interviewing a spy or something. >> it's a little like the cia. my whole life is using fake names. trying to sneak in and out of restaurants unnoticed. >> it's hard to overstate the influence they have over the world of fine dining. because they are the incorruptible keepers of the michelin stars. and with their boss, jean-luc -- >> you really deserve a big round of applause -- >> -- they decide which restaurants will receive the restaurant equivalent all
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wrapped up in one. a piece of fish is either cooked properly or it isn't? >> absolutely. there are only two kinds. the good one and the bad one. we only recommend the good one. >> what qualifies you to wield this enormous power over the restaurant industry? >> all of the michelin inspectors have gone to some sort of culinary school or perhaps hospitality school. all of them have worked in a restaurant as a professional chef or in a hotel in food and beverage. most importantly, all of them are obsessive foodies. >> m. tells me she eats out around nine times a week. since she would cause suspicious by take notes, she then spends two to three hours after each meal writing extensive reports from memory. do you taste food differently than the rest of us? >> we have eaten thousands of the same thing over and over and over again. which gives you a bit of a measurement. >> i was trying to think of an analogy coming over here and it occurred to me -- this may be
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clunky -- but like the westminster kennel club show, right? those judges know what the perfect poodle should look like. you know how the perfect piece of fish should taste. >> it's a great analogy. it's the best in show. >> it all began in france. way back in 1900. as a marketing gimmick to sell tires. you see, the michelin brothers figured their customers would literally burn rubber if given a list of hotels and restaurants to explore. and to this day, a two-star rating is worth the detour. and three stars, the highest, are worth a special journey. today, the guide covers more than 23 countries. out of 45,000 rated restaurants, less than 100 have the top rating. and only nine american restaurants carry three stars. new york is one of them. chef eric lepare will never forget the moment he got there. >> i was walking in the streets. the telephone rang. i had it in my pocket. at that moment, i find this on the floor. >> a 7 of clubs?
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>> the lucky card. so, what did i get? >> he said, it's your lucky day, you got three stars. >> i kept this card. because it's on my desk. >> that was your lucky -- >> to remind me, lucky day. >> as an example of the precision needed to maintain that rating, the chef whips up tuna tar tar with fragous and lemon juice. >> i have one minute to get it to the client. in two minutes, it will be not the same at all. in two minutes, the dish for me is ruined. >> those precious moments could be the difference between three stars and two. or a 30% decrease in business. >> there's always a good reason to lose a star. >> like what, a dirty fork? >> no, no, no, you know, it's a chance -- or i've -- not here
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anymore or in the progress of selling the restaurant. anything could happen. >> i never thought about it like that. like a painter or a musician. this dish is a reflection of their state of mind. >> difficult job. >> still, there are plenty of chefs ready to throw their risk at the television right now. because this man who is leaving michelin soon, is a controversial figure. >> the thing i didn't -- was the incredible love and -- the chef have with the michelin guide. because they know, yes, we don't have the stars, but what we should do, react about that or wait and do our job properly to get next year? >> critics question the consistency of the ratings system. some say in an effort to sell more books and tires, the guide has expanded too far too fast. case in point, japan. shortly after the michelin guide arrived there, tokyo now has more three star restaurants than paris. >> some would say you're too generous giving the japanese
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stars. that it's an effort to sell more michelin guides into a new market. >> that's not true. you have to compare april well apple. there's only 15,000 restaurants in paris. there's 160,000 restaurants in tokyo. there's obviously more restaurants. more michelin stars. >> and m. insists all michelin stars are consistent. whether given to places with place mats or white linen. if you're thinking she might just have the greatest job in the world, think again. do you get to bring friends, family, when you go out? >> most of the time, we dine alone. it gives us the ability to really focus on the food and the ambience and capture the entire experience. of course if we're going somewhere, where it would be very strange or obvious to see someone dining alone, we'll tag along with another inspector and write two papers instead of one. >> table for one. the saddest words. that's your life. >> it's actually okay, you know, when you're really, really into food, everything else that's
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going on around you isn't so important. >> so finally, you want to get a hot dog or something? maybe a slice on the street? so i can see you work? is that allowed? >> no, i'm going to lunch now, but i can't tell you where. >> foiled. you know, if i hadn't signed that nondisclosure agreement, i could probably dine out on her description for the rest of my life. but thanks to m. anyway. when we come back, the big business of covering their bottoms. we step inside pampers diaper lab to take a look at how next generation nappies are made. if your racing thoughts keep you awake... sleep is here, on the wings of lunesta. and if you wake up often in the middle of the night... rest is here, on the wings of lunesta. lunesta helps you fall asleep and stay asleep, so you can wake up feeling rested. when taking lunesta, don't drive or operate machinery until you feel fully awake. walking, eating, driving, or engaging in other activities while asleep, without remembering it the next day,
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have been reported. abnormal behaviors may include aggressiveness, agitation, hallucinations or confusion. in depressed patients, worsening of depression, including risk of suicide, may occur. alcohol may increase these risks. allergic reactions, such as tongue or throat swelling, occur rarely and may be fatal. side effects may include unpleasant taste, headache, dizziness and morning drowsiness. ask your doctor if lunesta is right for you. get lunesta for a $0 co-pay at sleep well, on the wings of lunesta.
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diapers seem fairly simple. keep major dirt out. keep water and what have you in. but for decades pampers and huggies, the giants of the industry, have waged an increasingly high-tech war to engineer a product that outperforms the rest. tonight, sharyn alfonsi goes inside the rarely seen research lab. >> reporter: they are sweet. innocent. and at the center of one of the toughest battles in business. the diaper wars. in the u.s., the birth rate has been declining for more than a decade, with fewer new customers, the two industry giants, pampers and huggies, are socking it out, fighting for the precious dollars that come with
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diapering those precious bottoms. americans spend $7 billion worth of diapers every year. $7 billion. and the battle for those dollars has been raging for decades. >> this little baby went to market and smiled all the way home. >> reporter: this is the first diaper commercial from pampers back in 1960. >> because pampers are made with seven layers of softness. >> reporter: today, diapers are about half as bulky. that didn't happen by accident. diaper companies spend millions of dollars every year to try to make diapers thinner, more absorbent. we were granted access to pampers never before seen research and development center where over 500 scientists, chemical engineers and seamstresses are trying to improve the look and the feel of the nappy. okay, i can't even say that -- >> that's the analytical chromotography lab. >> reporter: okay. their work is surprisingly top secret.
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no one, not even executives like carrie haley, have access to every room. there are locks on the doors. there is serious business. >> security is serious, it's diapers. >> reporter: each lab has a numerical lock so they can track who is coming in and out. here, they're working on prototypes for new diapers. they are tested for scent, touch, flexibility and durability. >> we want to make sure that as babies are scooting around on their bottom and moving, that that product stays together and stays as intended the entire wear time. >> 23.4 pounds. >> good job. >> yeah, big boy. >> good job. >> reporter: and that's before they bring in the babies for some real-time testing. >> are you posing? >> reporter: this is called a fit and load test. >> hang on tight. >> reporter: fit to make sure they're comfortable. and then the load. >> does that tickle? does that tickle? >> reporter: those bubbles are
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actually synthetic urine. each diaper is tested for how much it can take before it leaks. can we take measurements from this line down to that line -- >> reporter: researchers pore over their findings. they take x-rays. even creating three dimensional models. why do you need to flip the baby upside down like that? >> for us, it's critical to see for simple gapings. >> reporter: then, after all of it, they test the products again. >> here we are doing another diaper change. >> reporter: this time, with mommies who take home the product. using them. weighing them. and then returning them. >> seal it up. >> reporter: that's right, they pick apart and even sniff dirty diapers. one unit is dedicated entirely just to bowel movements. all of it in the name of science. why smell a stinky diaper? >> what we do is we try to measure and analyze and understand everything that mom
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and dads experience with our products. so that includes applying it and fitting well. but it also includes what is the scent experience that they get, you know, in the beginning, in the middle, in the end. >> reporter: experience? which is why, when dozens of mothers complained on facebook about pampers new dry max diapers, saying they gave their children extreme diaper rash and chemical burns, the folks at pampers were shocked. >> there's been no data being able to link the dry max product to any kind of skin irritation. dry max was tested on over 20,000 babies. >> reporter: the internet swirled with theories that pampers competitors or environmentalists who favor cloth diapers were behind some of the accusations. and while that battle raged on, the diaper war intensified. huggies launching a little shock and awe. >> my diaper is full, full of fashion. >> reporter: a limited edition jean diaper. yes, jean diaper.
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>> i look like number one. i poo in blue. >> reporter: the commercial caused quite a buzz. >> over 1 million consumers have actually gone on to youtube where the spot is actually out there and played the commercial for themselves. >> reporter: and sales skyrocketed. up 15% almost overnight. but pampers fought back. releasing its cynthia rally designer diapers. seem silly? well, the idea is to get moms so excited about a new product they'll switch brands. and that is not easy. diaper buyers are extremely brand loyal. and it starts on day one. studies show if a mother's given a particular brand in the hospital, they're likely to use that brand for life. so both companies sell their diapers to hospitals at a discount. hoping to hook customers early. pampers claims it now has
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contracts with about 95% of hospitals. to win the diaper war, companies know they have to win the hearts and minds of mommies. after all, there are billions of dollars riding on those adorable bottom lines. for "nightline," i'm sharyn alfonsi in new york. >> call me when they come up with one that changes itself. thanks to sharyn alfonsi. here's jimmy kim well what's next on jimle kimmel live. >> tonight, mark wahlberg, beau garrett, music from the temper trap and frosty the snowman meets maury the povich. úcú;ckca/
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